After speaking with Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee and a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, today announced that Rhode Island will serve as the homeport for two new 270-foot Coast Guard medium-endurance cutters, which will be based out of Naval Station Newport, each with a crew of 100. These Coast Guard cutters are scheduled to arrive in the fall of next year.
The USGC Tahoma (WMEC-908) and USCGC Campbell (WMEC 909), two of the Coast Guard’s fleet of twenty-nine medium-endurance cutters in service, will be coming to Rhode Island from their previous homeport at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in New Hampshire. Both vessels will continue conducting missions pertaining to maritime law enforcement, homeland security, and search and rescue missions in support of Coast Guard operations throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Senator Reed, who has advocated that Newport be the home of additional federal Coast Guard and U.S. Navy assets, said the announcement is a victory for the Ocean State, the Coast Guard, and taxpayers. It will bring more jobs and Coast Guard personnel to Rhode Island while maximizing efficiencies and taking advantage of recent federal investments and Rhode Island’s strategic location.
“The Coast Guard plays an essential role in safeguarding our nation and I very much appreciate the Commandant’s leadership in making this move,” said Senator Reed, who toured Coast Guard facilities in Rhode Island with Admiral Schultz in 2019. “This is good news for Rhode Island. From a strategic, operational, and cost-benefit perspective, moving these cutters to Newport makes sense. Naval Station Newport offers an ideal location for the Coast Guard to homeport these vessels and their crews. It offers the benefits and amenities of a secure naval facility and an outstanding quality of life for crewmembers and their families. And I will continue working with the Coast Guard and Navy to make facility investments needed for these vessels and more.”
These 270-foot medium-endurance cutters are part of the Famous-class of vessels that began service in the late 1980s. These are multi-mission capital assets that globally deploy for approximately 90 days at a time. While primarily under the command of Coast Guard Atlantic Area, they support District commanders as well including Coast Guard District one, conducting search and rescue and fisheries enforcement off the coast of New England. They also support the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction and migrant interdiction missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific Oceans.
Both cutters are equipped with sophisticated communication and navigation equipment and are armed with a 76mm deck gun and deploy with an embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. Specifications include beam of 38 feet, draft of 14.5 feet, displacement of 1,800 tons and speed of 19.5 knots cruising. Propulsion is by twin turbo-charged ALCO V-18 diesel engines.
This will be a homecoming of sorts for both vessels, whose keels were laid at the now defunct Derecktor shipyard in Middletown, Rhode Island in 1983 (Tahoma) and 1984 (Campbell).
Senator Reed helped include $8.4 billion in operations and maintenance funding for the Coast Guard in the fiscal year 2021 appropriations law, and an additional $2.2 billion in procurement and capital investments funding to help the Coast Guard upgrade its fleet by procuring new ships like the National Security Cutters (NSCs), Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), and Fast Response Cutters (FRCs).
Previously, Senator Reed secured $30 million in federal funding to create a new facility at Naval Station Newport for the Coast Guard’s three Rhode Island-based buoy tenders. Upgrades to the pier and waterside facilities were completed in 2015.
With 41,000 active-duty personnel and 8,000 civilian employees, the Coast Guard has many responsibilities for protecting our nation, enforcing our laws, supporting commerce, and saving lives at sea.
The Coast Guard has a considerable presence in Rhode Island, with about 300 active-duty personnel, 50 Reservists, and another 45 civilian employees. The Coast Guard is responsible for patrolling over 384 miles of Ocean State shoreline and has an annual operating budget in the state of about $58 million.
“From saving lives, to stopping drug smugglers, to keeping commerce flowing across the waves, the Coast Guard performs several key missions, and we are grateful for the unwavering dedication and professionalism of our Coast Guard members,” said Senator Reed. “The Coast Guard has a strong, active presence here in Rhode Island, and we’re pleased to see it grow even stronger. We’ve made key investments and we have a great location that make Rhode Island an ideal place for Coast Guard resources.”
Currently, Newport is home to four Coast Guard Cutters, CGC Oak, CGC Sycamore, CGC Ida Lewis, and CGC Steelhead. In several years, these vessels will be joined by two brand new state of the art 360-foot Heritage-class vessels that are currently under construction in Florida. These multi-mission assets service aids-to-navigation, conduct search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, ports and waterways security, living marine resources, and defense and homeland security missions.
In addition to the Coast Guard, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Agency (NOAA) also homeports several research vessels in Rhode Island, and Senator Reed says he wants to bring more federal assets to the Ocean State.
“Hopefully, this is the start of a series of more vessels calling the Ocean State home,” said Reed, who noted the arrival of the medium endurance cutters will also bring some pier improvements to the existing pier structures at NAVSTA Newport – and plans for a new pier and facilities are underway to support the arrival of the OPCs.
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